Oprah Sued for Quoting Excerpt of Book on TV, Copyright Gets “K Leg”

In Film Law, Legal News by FASHIONENTLAW™

You know, I was thinking the other day how celebrities get sued over some of the most stupid things. Things like accidentally bumping into someone. With the most ordinary person, you say “sorry” or they say “sorry” and we move on with it. When you are a celebrity, you get sued. This case about Oprah reinforces my thought. I call it Copyright gets “K-Leg.” What is “K-Leg.” K-Leg in the context I use it is where a seemingly normal story gets a twist to it. It is a term I grew up hearing in Nigeria where I spent my early childhood. What’s the K-Leg here? Copyright law has really been turned on its head. Let’s say as an artist, designer or filmmaker, you make an appearance on a radio or TV show.

As the host and you enjoy your dialogue, hopefully, you quote your favorite excerpt from a book. Should you get sued? Do you need “consent” from the author to make such quote? The obvious answer is an emphatic “NO!” Think about the ridiculousness of the results not just on your case but the broader implications in society. Well this is what the latest suit against Oprah is all about. Sigh.

“Oprah Winfrey is being sued by the author of political booklet, How America Elects Her Presidents. Charles Harris claims in a lawsuit filed yesterday (late October) in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania that in 2008, as Winfrey began supporting Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Harris sent 10 copies of his booklet to the Oprah Winfrey Show in hopes of gaining publicity. He followed up with several inquiries.

Harris got no response, but according to the complaint, on the February 16, 2009 show, Winfrey allegedly read aloud exact questions that were included in the book. Harris claims that the readings were plagiarism and constituted copyright infringement, which “caused and will continue to cause Plaintiffs to suffer substantial injury, loss and damage to its property and exclusive rights. . . and further has damaged Plaintiffs’ business reputation and goodwill, diverted its trade and caused a loss of profits all in an amount not yet ascertained.”

Harris is seeking Winfrey’s profits or maximum statutory damages of up to $150,000 per unlawful use

.” ~THR, Esq. Below is the complaint from Tech Dirt.

oprah lawsuit

Photocredit: ANI

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Fashionentlaw™ is the brainchild of Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak), an ex-fashion model and industry veteran turned Fashion and Entertainment lawyer. The law blog discusses hot topics in pop culture arising primarily out of the fashion industry.

As a legal practitioner, Ms. Uduak has seventeen years of experience counseling individuals and businesses within and outside the creative community. She has counseled designers, apparel manufacturers, models, photographers, retailers, graphic designers, musicians, public relations specialists, and athletes, among others, on diverse legal issues including business formation, licensing, trademark and copyright matters, contracts, intellectual property and contract disputes.

To arrange a consultation to discuss your case, contact her today at 916-361-6506 or email (uduak@ebitulawgrp.com).

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